ABC AM radio interview

SUBJECT/S: Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Citizenship, Bennelong by-election.









SUBJECT/S: Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Citizenship, Bennelong by-election.


SABRA LANE, HOST: Mr Dreyfus, good morning and welcome to the program.


MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Morning Sabra. Thanks for having me.


LANE: How alarmed should governments be by that warning that abuse is still happening within some institutions?  


DREYFUS: Very alarmed and that’s the lesson from this Royal Commission, which has given thousands of Australians affected by these crimes the opportunity to be heard. What we now need is to take action. And that’s the message from Peter McClellan and the other commissioners yesterday – that we should not assume just because thousands of survivors have been able to tell their stories, that it’s stopped. We now have to move onto the next stage, which is to act on the recommendations we’re going to get from the Royal Commission today.


LANE: Justice McClellan also says that abuse in the family setting was an even greater problem. How can governments and agencies respond to that?


DREYFUS: We have to change our culture. That’s what – I hope – this Royal Commission has gone part of the way to achieving; to create an absolutely clear understanding among all Australians that these are crimes. This is an evil crime that permanently blights the lives of Australians, people who are abused as children. And the Royal Commission has to be regarded as a start. It’s told us that institutions have failed to act. It’s told us that governments have failed to act. And we now need to take those lessons and act on them in the future.


LANE: Should people be disappointed that no senior officials from the Catholic Church appeared at yesterday’s final hearing?


DREYFUS: Of course they should. I was very disappointed to see that no senior officials from the Catholic Church turned up. The Catholic Church has been at the heart of thousands of the stories and referrals that have occurred to criminal prosecution authorities. And in other respects, the response of the Catholic Church has been appropriate – it’s participated – but they should have turned up yesterday.


LANE: The final report and the recommendations will be out later today. How long is a reasonable amount of time for the Federal Government and state governments to consider it before announcing whether they’ll adopt all the recommendations?


DREYFUS: All governments have to take speedy action. This Royal Commission was announced at the end of 2012. It’s been running for five years. It’s given interim reports. I’ll say that Labor is very disappointed at how long the Federal Government has taken to act on the Redress Report of the Royal Commission which of course, was delivered in September 2015, with the express hope of the commissioners that the Government would be able to act on it and that the Commission would then be able to comment on it in its final report. That hasn’t happened. The Government has only just now introduced legislation to set up the redress Scheme. And as of yet, not a single state or institution has signed up. That should not be the speed – that is, taking two years to act on those recommendations about redress - that should not be the speed with which governments respond. We need much quicker action than that.


LANE: As you say, some states seem reluctant. Dare I say, recalcitrant to act on this. Why should the Commonwealth bear responsibility for a scheme that ultimately state governments have a moral responsibility for?


DREYFUS: All governments have a moral responsibility for this. It’s a national issue. That’s why it was absolutely right for Julia Gillard, Jenny Macklin and Nicola Roxon – my predecessor as Attorney-General – our Labor Government to act at the end of 2012. And the national government needs to continue to lead. That was the point made by the Royal Commissioners in their redress report, I don’t know exactly the way in which the Commissioners are going to put their report today but I’d be confident they would be calling on the national government to take a national role.


LANE: Compensation for victims who have been subsequently convicted of serious crimes - the Federal Government has said no to that. Mr Porter says it’s been one of the most difficult issues he’s had to confront. What’s your view?


DREYFUS: The redress legislation has got a number of exceptions which we find concerning. You’ve mentioned one there, and the other is out of home care. But as Bill Shorten said yesterday, I don’t think we should be creating two classes of victim. And that is seemingly what the Government has done in the way in which it has framed the redress scheme. We are going to continue to look at the way this redress scheme is proposed, how it’s working, but it needs to be a truly national redress scheme that looks after all survivors. And at the moment, it doesn’t seem to be that.


LANE: On citizenship. Are you still intent on pursuing Josh Frydenberg over his citizenship?


DREYFUS: I think I’ve said all I need to say about that subject. But I want to make clear that what I was saying is that a number of Liberal MPs, including Jason Falinski, Nola Marino, Julia Banks, had not made adequate disclosure and that remains the case. What’s regrettable here is that the Prime Minister hasn’t taken the opportunity to end this mess. We are still going to be talking about citizenship when we come back in February.


LANE: And Bennelong, just quickly on that. How close do you think that context will be tomorrow?


DREYFUS: It’s going to be very close and I very very much hope that the excellent candidate that Labor has, Kristina Keneally, is going to be joining me in the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party because I know that she will make a tremendous contribution to national politics.


LANE: Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus. Thanks for joining the program this morning


DREYFUS: Thanks very much, Sabra.